At the end of 2010, Marta Sacri –flutes- creates “Sechem” with the aim of spreading the knowledge of Ancient Egypt through oriental and metal music. After an underground run followed by gigs with both national and international bands, festivals and shows with mummies and other surprises, their first demo “[REN]loaded” comes out in 2014. 2016 will be the year when the first studio album “Renaissance of the Ancient Ka” will be released. An EP set in a darker Egypt steeped in the fights between christianism and the pagan world. That said, Marta Sacri who plays the flute, discusses the band's debut release and further plans that they have in mind.
1. Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Sechem?
Marta: Hi everyone! I’m Marta Sacri, flutist in our band. As a founder member, my role is not restricted only to my instrument, I also coordinate some of the activities of the band, I compose some songs and I’m the thinking mind behind our stories. Despite all of this, we’ll try to give voice to all of our members during this interview because they are all essential and unique.
2. What type of band are you?
Marta: We could surely define ourselves as an Oriental Metal band similar to Orphaned Land or Myrath because, even though our music is influenced by many styles, we always keep in mind the evocation of melodies and rhythms from Northern Africa and the Middle East.
3. Tell us the brief history of your band.
Marta: As I mentioned before, I started Sechem in late 2010 with one goal, to tell the history of Ancient Egypt through modern and metal music. By that time, Folk Metal was really growing up in Europe, with a lot of bands telling stories about Vikings and Celts. In my opinion, Egypt has been one of the most harmed civilizations, because its history has been distorted to absolute limits, creating a misperception of reality. With Sechem I wanted to fix this, and show everyone the grandeur of this magnificent civilization. In terms of music, even though it took us some time to find our own style, we found Oriental Metal to be the most appropriate one because it is what most people associate with these regions. Moreover, with such huge bands as Orphaned Land, Myrath or Aeternam, who wouldn’t love to follow their path?
Our active period began in 2013, playing several gigs in and outside our hometown, Madrid, Spain. We also launched our first demo “Ren”. Because of some lineup changes we decided to make a reissue called “[Ren]Loaded”, which you can download for free on our Bandcamp profile. During 2014 and 2015 we prepared several shows with surprises: new songs, mummies, supporting some international bands… to finally change our lineup again and launch our first studio EP: “Renaissance of the Ancient Ka”.
4. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Marta: Each member has been influenced by many different guys and bands during his career. But in terms of Sechem, our musical arrangements feature influences from the previously mentioned Oriental Metal bands and some other different stuff such as Eluveitie, Epica, Xandria, Iced Earth or Symphony X. Even so, we are quite eclectic, so you might be surprised to know every of our influences.
5. What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Marta: Our lyrics are focused on telling stories and certain aspects of Egypt, however, we also write about specific feelings and/or more abstract themes, all without losing the purely historical perspective. In general, we try to present the history of this region, either through stories or feelings. We have songs that narrate events as the reign of Akhenaten (“Son of the Sun”, [Ren]loaded, 2014); some talk about love as our previous single, Sandstorm ([Ren]loaded, 2014); others are even about religious and cultural changes (“Agora”, Renaissance of the Ancient Ka, 2016) or tensions between groups (“Era of Martyrs”, Renaissance of the Ancient Ka, 2016). Everything centered in Egypt, of course.
6. Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)
Marta: With the exception of few covers only performed live, all our songs are composed by the members or former members of the band. Despite the fact that everybody is involved in the composition process; usually Carlos Sobrino, bass player, and me are the main actors in this process. Lyric wise, Ikena the singer helps me create the world we want to create.
7. Why did you want to take the topic of Ancient Egypt to use towards your music? What is it about this topic that strikes your interest?
Marta: The idea to take the topic of Ancient Egypt comes from the distorted image the general public has about this region, a concept created by the Bible, literature, Hollywood movies, pseudo-sciences, exotic cults and bad experts. Ancient Egypt is perhaps the most attractive ancient civilization nowadays and people deserve to have a real and trustworthy perception of it. We also believe there is a great gap regarding bands with this kind of image since most folk groups tend to focus on central-northern civilizations. Also, last but not least, don’t you believe that mummies, hieroglyphs, pyramids, pharaohs, papyrus, Ankh, the eye of Horus, Tutankhamen, the sand, the dust and the dung beetles aren’t extremely cool???
8. "Renaissance Of The Ancient Ka" is your debut EP, which takes place in a darker Egypt, what makes this version of Egypt darker?
Marta: There is a bit of a paradox here because even if we talk about a “darker era” (depending on the comparison, obviously), the songs are much more lively and alive than the previous ones. The main topic of the record talks about the social changes that took place during the Late Antiquity around the Mediterranean, but more specifically in Egypt. The Roman Empire, who had been ruling for centuries, finds itself collapsed under a series of necessities it couldn’t cope with. Here we witness the beginning of one of the most powerful forces of humanity: Christianism. This new trend shakes the established structures leading to a convulsive period in which there are both verbal and physical fights between individuals who see the world differently. Finally, as we all know, Christianity is became dominant. Although traditionally these events mark the end of the pagan religions, including the Egyptian one, if we delve into Christian thinking, we can glimpse that there are many elements of Ancient Egypt who have never abandoned us.
9. Is there any story or concept behind the "Renaissance Of The Ancient Ka" title?
Marta: The truth is that the title of the album is a bit of a story. “Renaissance of the Ancient Ka” is the name of the first melody composed by us, although it never saw the light. We believed that the sentence fit perfectly with what we wanted to convey on the disc, so we rescued it. The Ka was, for the Egyptians, a component of the human body (as it was the Ren, the title of our previous work). It was the spark that made individuals alive. With this statement we wanted to summarize that although Egypt was Hellenized and Romanized later, the legacy of Ancient Egypt lasted to this day, even when such a potent force as Christianity appeared on the scene. Christianity, especially the Egyptian one (Coptic), retains many elements and ideas from this ancient civilization. The birth of these new groups, ideologies and peoples didn’t destroy the Egyptian culture, they transformed it, "reborn" under another guise. As he did in his day Osiris, indeed.
10. Who produced "Renaissance Of The Ancient Ka" and what was it like working with them?
Marta: The album was produced entirely by us. Before entering the studio we pre-produced a model of the topics to enable last minute arrangements. This model would not have been possible without the help of our ex-guitarist, Adrián Martínez. The recordings were engineered by Víctor and Esther at California Studios in Madrid. They not only followed us during the recording, mixing and mastering processes, but also helped us with the arrangements and gave us a few tips. We do not know what we would have done without them! In addition, we had the help of our current guitarist, Guille Ramos, who at the time was not yet part of the team.
11. Who did the cover art for "Renaissance Of The Ancient Ka" and how much input did you have on it?
Marta: The artwork was designed by the great Enzo Andreotti (father of our keyboardist Paolo Andreotti). We had already worked on our previous work, "[Ren] loaded", with the production of lyric video for the song “Sandstorm”. We had an image and concepts in mind, and he brought them alive. The font used belong to the Coptic alphabet; following that idea we wanted to convey the relationship between ancient Egypt and Christianity. The Coptic alphabet, used by Egyptian Christians, is the latest evolutionary stage of the language of the pharaohs. On the other hand, the main symbol is what we have dubbed "Crismankh" because it is a mix between the Egyptian symbol of life, the Ankh, and one of the most famous Christian icons, the Chi Rho. So we wanted to bring also visually the idea of syncretism between Egyptian culture and Christian one.
12. Can you select two songs from "Renaissance Of The Ancient Ka" and explain what inspired the lyrics.
Marta: Personally, if I had to choose two songs to talk about the story behind them, I’d chose Raise Your Flask and Agora.
Raise Your Flask is the first song of the álbum, since Eis Ho Theos! is more of an intro. With it we wanted to introduce the audience to what was being lived in that time. Through characters that are in a pilgrimage (very typical in Antiquity), the listener realizes that the world as it is known is changing. This is provoked by the appearance of a new religious force. These characters are Christians and along with announcing this changes they empathise how hard it was to follow Jesus Christ in the beginning of his doctrine, since they were condemned and persecuted for centuries. Even so, the number of Christians kept growing, moved by the strong faith and sacrifice of their Messiah. Some fought, even to the death, for their ideals and dreams.
On the other side, in Folk Metal, the phrase “Raise your horn or beer” as a symbol of pride or victory, is very famous, and we wanted to pay homage to the genre adapting it to our theme. One of the most famous archaeological elements are the flasks (ampullae), which you can find in almost any museum in the world. Raising our flasks we make a small reflection as the song ends: “So Raise Your Flask, just be proud of who you are”.
Agora is the single of Renaissance of the Ancient Ka. The title is a little wink to a famous Amenábar movie, which narrates the events that surround Hipatia of Alexandria and the fight between pagans and Christians during the IV century in Egypt. Although the director’s ideological position is very clear, we wanted to give a more neutral vision of that situation. The cultures and ideas are born, transformed, mixed, die, and there is no one to blame, because that is the natural order of things, during the Late Antiquity, the inhabitants of the Roman empire are involved in a crisis of many levels, but over all in an ideological level, since there is a “fight” between the paganism and the old ideals and Christianity and renovation. Two worlds completely different are opposed and it’s the Romans themselves who chose. This is the idea we were trying to show in the song.
13. How do you promote your band and shows?
Marta: Although it may seem difficult and surprising, it is our understanding that word of mouth has worked quite well with us, perhaps because we are a group belonging to a genre that is still a minority, and more so in our country. Still, we usually contact the media, such as blogs or websites along with national magazines, to make ourselves known, and we have even landed some reviews or interviews in an international level. We are very active in social networks, and we have opened numerous online platforms. In turn, our songs have appeared in some radios and have been played in some bars of Madrid. Then there are the classics, like putting up posters or bothering anyone who crosses our path.
14. Can you describe your show, visually and musically for us?
Marta: We believe we still have a long way to go, but doubtlessly, we can give you some clues. If we had to sell ourselves, we’d say that we are something like a breeze of fresh air (sand), musically speaking, since we try to be quite original with our sound and to make the audience enjoy it as much as us.
With the idea of transporting people to ancient Egypt, our shows are a mix of metal music and oriental music (to the most Hollywoodian style), rocking out and with very fun visual shows, with mummies, dancers and other surprises that we cannot reveal. Besides, each member has their own particular style, and bring great things on stage. To sum things up: Oriental music, mummies, pyramids, Ra, Anubis… Should we go on?
15. What do you guys have planned for this year?
Marta: This year we're going to dedicate it entirely to performing concerts in our country, promoting our EP and improving our shows. We are also pending to have a party and presentation concert of the album, and some other things that can not yet reveal. Stay tuned, because the mummies have returned to you take you out of your catacombs! ;)